Our table at The Cinnamon Club - a high-end Indian restaurant in the heart of Westminster - was booked for 19:30 but, even though we were around 15 minutes early, we were allowed to take our seats straight away. We'd already decided to give the tasting menu a whirl so our only choice for the night was which wine to go for. Upon advice from one of the waiters we chose a nice Italian red and settled down in anticipation of a memorable meal.
The main dining room of The Cinnamon Club is a large, open affair with hundreds of books lining the walls; including several works by Dickens and other such eclectic subjects as Norsk Flora. Perusing the covers of these kept us entertained until our amuse bouche of a coriander and yoghurt covered cube of steamed rice appeared. And disappeared just as quickly, having been swiftly devoured.
Next up was a plate of three small appetisers, the highlight of which was some flaky crab on a lotus root crisp, before our first starter proper arrived in the form of a spiced seafood bisque. And it certainly was spiced, packing a real punch, but thankfully not overpowering the background taste of prawn and shrimp. The second starter was another mixed plateful, with the star this time being some okra filled with peanut and jaggery - which our waiter informed us was a type of cane sugar.
|Starter Number 2|
And so to our two mains, which kicked off with a pair of plump prawns partnered with a cracking mango and coriander sauce. This was probably my favourite dish of the whole meal. The second main was a Tandoori grouse breast, served up with some minced grouse leg meat and a dollop of coriander mashed potato. No complaints about this course either, though I'd like to try some unspiced grouse sometime now, as the Tandoori flavour was again pretty strong.
Each of our savoury courses were definitely tasty, with enough spicing to make sure we knew we were eating Indian food, but never too much so as to totally overpower the core ingredients. After enjoying proceedings so far we looked forward to our dessert, and this is where things started to go awry.
We had a long wait for our dessert. Too long. Just short of asking "where's our dessert?" long in fact. When it did finally arrive it was thankfully as tasty as the rest of the meal had been; taking the form of some chocolate fudge mousse alongside very subtly spiced ice-cream and a strange, squishy, lime-flavoured blob called a rasgolla.
The final part of our tasting menu was coffee and petit fours which we ordered and asked to have served in the quirky downstairs bar. This was when things really got messy. After taking our seats we had another overly-long wait for the coffees, though again they were good enough to be worth it. We followed these up with a cocktail each and, having been kept waiting around before, we asked for our bill at the same time.
When our waiter brought us our cocktails he informed us that it looked like we'd be getting a free meal, as our bill was meant to have been left on our table at the bar, but it hadn't been. He was worried about getting into trouble for the missing bill but as far as we were concerned it wasn't his fault. So after downing our cocktails we went back upstairs, retrieved the coat we'd stored in the cloakroom and left. Walked out. Unchallenged. Without paying a penny. Wow.
Honesty (and maybe a touch of guilt) took over however so we returned. The restaurant had my details from the booking and I didn't really want to risk getting into any trouble for not paying our bill, though after the shambles that had occurred I wasn't convinced they'd do anything about it. We explained what had happened and our bill was duly produced, though we refused to pay the service charge after they'd messed things up so much. I'll be honest - I was a little disappointed that they didn't see fit to knock a bit more off the bill as a gesture of goodwill. After all, we could easily have kept on walking and got the whole meal for free.
I'd eat at The Cinnamon Club again as the food was great, the ambience was pleasant and it was reasonable value for money. However, they really need to sort out the issues with their service. Moving us from dining area to bar should've been seamless and straightforward, but it ended up being anything but. When you eat at a place like this you expect to have nigh-on flawless service - it's one of the things you pay for. But I reckon we could've got away without paying at all and they'd have never noticed. We were honest enough to go back and pay, but I'm sure that many others wouldn't have.